Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blunkett to Ban Replicas in Public as Crime Soars

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blunkett to Ban Replicas in Public as Crime Soars

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID TAYLOR

A BAN on carrying replica guns in public is set to be introduced by David Blunkett, amid growing concern about their use to commit crime or spread fear. The Home Secretary has told colleagues in Westminster he intends to publish the plans soon, after pressure from police chiefs.

Fake weapons are used in an estimated 80 per cent of all gun crime but neither the police nor victims can tell if the replicas are real.

Last year, traffic warden Derek Bennett, 29, was shot dead by a police marksman in Brixton while carrying what police thought was a handgun. It was later discovered that the weapon was actually a cigarette lighter in the shape of a gun.

Details of the proposals are still being finalised but sources say it is likely that a new criminal offence will be created, banning the carrying of a replica gun in circumstances likely to cause alarm or distress.

Senior police officers estimate that up to 600,000 imitation guns could be in circulation in Britain. There is no law to prevent their sale and many are worn as a fashion accessory by young men.

The move to reform the law comes after recommendations in a report from the Firearms Consultative Committee - the independent body set up to keep gun laws under review after the Hungerford massacre.

It is already a criminal offence to threaten someone with a replica, or to possess one with intent to cause fear of unlawful violence, both carrying maximum jail terms of 10 years.

But the new proposal would mean anyone caught on the streets with a fake gun could face prosecution.

Home Affairs select committee chairman Chris Mullin is also pushing for an increase in police powers to confiscate weapons - as well as a plan to restrict ownership of air weapons to people older than 17.

His committee also believes that under-18s should not be allowed to buy replica guns. The new law will be included in the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill to be published in the New Year. …

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